Dr. Amina El-Ashmawy, a Collin College professor of chemistry, has been named a 2015 Piper Professor by the Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation. This honor is presented annually to 10 Texas professors for superior teaching at a college or university.
“Dr. El-Ashmawy brings both a love of education and the natural world to her classes, sharing the often unnoticed wonders of chemistry taking place all around us in a way her students can understand,” said Dr. Neil Matkin, Collin College district president. “She continues a tradition of academic excellence among our faculty as she becomes the seventh Collin College professor selected as a Piper Professor.”
A professor at Collin College for 24 years, Dr. El-Ashmawy said she loved both nature and education from a young age, noting in an autobiographical sketch submitted to the Piper Foundation that her mother would call her “Mademoiselle Deroose” (Miss Lessons) when she was growing up because she was always interested in learning and sharing that knowledge with others. From the way water flows from a garden hose to the behavior of insects, the natural world fascinated her.
Over the years, she has used examples taken from nature (often with a touch of humor) to engage students and make the subject matter more relatable. Using humor to keep people engaged was something she learned in her first chemistry course at Kilgore College. The teacher made the subject fun and she became a better student because of it. That teacher also saw the potential in Dr. El-Ashmawy when it came to educating others, encouraging her to tutor her fellow students.
Dr. El-Ashmawy received her associate of science from Kilgore College in 1980, then went on to earn a bachelor of arts (1982) and a master of science in chemistry (1986) from Texas A&M University. After graduation, she worked for a year as a middle school math and science teacher before becoming an associate chemistry professor at Collin College.
She earned her doctorate in chemistry from the University of North Texas (2006) while teaching as a full time professor at Collin College. That was a useful experience beyond learning the subject matter, Dr. El-Ashmawy said. It allowed her to return to a student’s mindset and see teaching from another perspective.
She continues to use that perspective in her classes and in other projects like Collin Scholars Innovate (CSI), a faculty group that explores ways to implement competency-based education at the college. She has developed an online chemistry curriculum and taught honors classes, as well as hybrid General Chemistry I and General Chemistry II courses.
Outside of the classroom, Dr. El-Ashmawy has worked extensively with the American Chemical Society (ACS), contributing to several committees, assisting in ACS curriculum and textbook testing and organizing an international conference attended by 1,300 people from 20 countries. She was named an ACS Fellow in 2013. She is also a published author with multiple journal article and textbook credits to her name, including a chapter in the upcoming “Sputnik to Smartphones: A Half-Century of Chemical Education.”
“We are very proud of Dr. El-Ashmawy’s accomplishment,” said Mac Hendricks, chair of the Collin College Board of Trustees. “Her dedication to her students and to the field of chemistry sets an example everyone should strive to follow.”
Dr. El-Ashmawy was honored to receive the award.
“I am humbled that I was selected by the Piper Foundation, as several gifted colleagues have been before me, and, I’m sure, several will be after me,” she said. “It is indeed an honor to receive the Piper Professorship. I gratefully accept the award not only for myself but for Collin College and all my colleagues.”
The Minnie Stevens Piper Professor award, first granted in 1958, recognizes outstanding educators at two- and four-year colleges and universities. The prestigious honor comes with a $5,000 honorarium and a gold pin. This is the second year in a row that a Collin College professor has been honored by the Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation. Dr. Kyle Wilkison was named a Piper Professor in 2014. Other previous winners on the faculty at Collin College include Dr. Peggy Brown, Dr. Rosemary Karr, Scott Yarborough, Gary Hodge and Dr. Lynn Jones.